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What is peer advising? Find answers here.

 What is peer advising? Find answers here.

Students in the biology, psychology, history, and communication and journalism departments can get advice and help from other students who have had similar questions about graduation requirements, majors and degree plans through the Peer Advising Program coordinated through the Academic Advising Office. Learn more about the program in a Q&A with Jana Armstrong, the connected advising coordinator.  

How did the Peer Advising program begin? 

Department-based peer advising came out of a Title III Strengthening Institutions Grant that the university received in 2010. This grant provided funds to develop and implement Connected Advising strategies with the intent of improving students' intentionality in academic career planning. The peer advising program began fall 2013 with the biology, psychology, and communication and journalism departments participating. A fourth program in the history department began fall 2014.  

What are the goals of the programs?

  • Assist students with course selection, registration, and major and career exploration.
  • Provide a student perspective on the college experience.
  • Connect students with co-curricular opportunities and ways to get involved in high-impact practices.
  • Assist new students with the transition to college by sharing their strategies for academic success, knowledge of campus resources and understanding of the academic advising process.

What is unique about the program? 

Although peer advising programs are not unusual and are growing in number, ours is somewhat unique in that it is entirely department based. This has played a large role in the program's success. With peer advisers physically located next to faculty offices, the peer advisers are able call on faculty for quick questions, and faculty are able to hear the conversations and provide guidance as needed. Students also like being advised by a peer adviser who is in the same major as they are. This provides a relevant, relatable experience that faculty and staff advisers are not able to provide.

How does this program directly benefit advisees? 

We all know students are already seeking out and acting on advice received from their peers. Peer advising provides students with accurate information delivered by a highly trained and competent peer. Faculty and staff advisers might give the same information, but it often carries more weight when a peer provides the information. As one student said, "Peer advisors are real students, so therefore they can help real students. It helped me a lot and made me not freak out as much about my career path." Another said, "When meeting with a faculty adviser, I always feel like I need to be really prepared so I don't waste their time. With a peer it was nice just being able to talk about classes they had taken and what they did/recommend you should do." 

What are the benefits for peer advisers? 

They gain a very thorough understanding of the variety of offices, resources and organizations available to students and learn how to connect students to those resources. Peer advisers also develop and improve their communication skills, learn to work effectively one-on-one, enhance their leadership skills and boost their own confidence when looked to as a source of knowledge. I think there's always some hesitation when we place students into roles that can appear to be similar to what professionals are doing. The peer advisers have demonstrated that they understand their role as guides, mentors and a supplement to what is already being done in departments. 

How successful has the program been so far? 

It depends how you define success. The peer advisers have met with over 600 students since its inception in fall 2013, and the numbers continue to grow. When faculty in departments where peer advising exists were asked for their thoughts on peer advising, they reported the following:  

  • "Having peer advising embedded within the major is VERY useful. The students appreciate the perspective of peer advisers who have been through similar programs. It's a good way to connect first-year students with the department." 
  • "I could not be more pleased with the contributions our peer advisers have made since the program began. The quality of my advising appointments have increased as a result of the peer advisers' first meeting with students."

As with any new program, it takes time to gain traction. Luckily, our peer advisers have been phenomenal which has led to great success any way you measure it.